Sunday, January 21, 2007

Catholic Faith In C21 Secular Britain

Two newspaper articles caught my eye this week. Both signify that the secular
age in which we all live is encroaching on matters of faith and morals. In
previous generations the credibility of religious leaders was such that they
could set or at least greatly influence, moral standards in Society.
Even those who did not adhere to their faith, would be prepared to
follow. Not any more.

Today's Independent on Sunday has on its front page, the following:

"Ruth Kelly is trying to water down new anti-discrimination laws to let Catholic adoption agencies turn away gay couples.
Backed by Tony Blair, the embattled Communities secretary is at the centre of a full-scale cabinet row over the new gay rights laws.
She was forced to postpone a formal letter setting out the exemption late last week because of opposition by her senior colleagues, The Independent on Sunday has learnt.
But Ms Kelly, a devout Catholic and member of the Opus Dei sect, remains determined to include a loophole for her church in the Equality Act 2006 which comes into force this April. A spokeswoman for Ms Kelly, who has overall responsibility for equality, said the minister wanted to "protect the pool of prospective parents" and would be trying to find a "pragmatic way forward" this week.
The Catholic church has threatened to close its seven adoption agencies rather than comply with laws that forbid them to discriminate against gay couples..."

Individuals in a free society surely have the right to their own way of life, sexual orientation, politics and religion
provided that they live in peace with their neighbour. Catholic teachings
about familes, marriage and sex are well known, as is how hard they can be to follow in
practice. Therefore if those who have to give their children for adoption, wish them to be adopted by Catholics who are appearing to try to follow the RC line,
they should have the right to do so.
Likewise those who prefer or must, follow another line should have the right to do so
by referrring to a non-RC adoption agency. There is no reason why a Catholic
adoption agency should be compelled to choose between selecting apparently
practising Catholic families for adopting children, or closure.

This thought police type compulsion approach, seems to me to be reminiscent of
state interference in the old USSR a few years back or in today's China where
the State is trying thankfully not 100% successfully, to nationalise the Catholic Church.

The second article is from the Catholic Herald newspaper this week, a relevant
extract from which reads:

"...most significant disappointment” in the new Government regulations. The regulations, which will apply to admissions in September 2008, also ban schools from interviewing parents in order to determine the strength of the family’s faith.The only criterion that schools are allowed to use in relation to faith is whether the child has been baptised – although oversubscribed schools can also ask for a reference from a priest. Jackie Johnson, head teacher at St Philomena’s Catholic High School for Girls in Sutton, Surrey, said the regulations had also caused “widespread anger” among Catholics outside London.She argued that the Government had “undermined the autonomy of Catholic schools” by imposing a restrictive admissions code.She said: “The Government has said that as a Catholic school all you need to know is if the child has been baptised. “The reaction of head teachers has been: ‘How dare you? You cannot tell us what we can or can’t measure by way of Church affiliation.’ ”..."

Now, if that report is accurate, the government by its proposed Regulation would essentially
become the State dictating to the Church, how to define 'a practising Catholic',
for the purposes of Catholic schools' admissions criteria.

Again this would be the State
interfering in the religious beliefs and practice of the faithful, where the state
has no business to be involved. Of course the State does contribute most
but not all, of the cash required to run Catholic schools but if Catholic
schools like Catholic adoption agencies, are closed down, the state would have
to pay 100% of the costs. Catholic children, familes and parents, will all suffer
and in my view Society itself would be immeasurably the poorer.

The Catholic religious leaders do appear to be waking up to the implications of
these State encroachments upon religious freedoms but I fear that their leadership
powers in practice, have been diluted by past weaknesses. Hopefully
however they will with the backing of the Faitfhful, win through in the end.


  1. And another encroachment by the State into the realm of
    religion by trying to regulate
    the legal status of ministers of religion as reported in this week's
    Catholic magazine The Tablet:

    "What about God’s workers?
    Isabel de Bertodano
    Contractual disputes involving Catholic priests have traditionally been governed in Britain by appeals to Rome under canon law. That could be about to change as the Department of Trade and Industry is pushing for servants of the Church to get the same rights as secular employees..."


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